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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, March 3, 2024

Field hockey team’s flexibility and fundamentals led to regular-season success, laying foundation for strong postseason potential

After-Bowdoin-2nd-Point-10_25
Members of the Tufts field hockey team rally after Bowdoin scores their second goal at game on Oct. 25.

Jumbo field hockey experienced significant growth and achieved great success throughout the regular season. After losing seven seniors to graduation last spring, the team relied on the players’ ability to embrace new roles and their extraordinary work ethic to secure a record of 10–5 going into the postseason.

On Oct. 22, Tufts fell 4–0 to national powerhouse Middlebury. The Jumbos had no response for the Panthers’ commanding 13 shots on goal and seven corner opportunities. Though senior goalie Sam Gibby managed eight saves, her offense remained quiet, attempting only three shots the entire game. 

The final game of the regular season was on Oct. 25 against Bowdoin and ended in a 3–2 loss for Tufts after two thrilling overtimes. Senior midfielder Reegan McCluskey launched the Jumbos’ scoring with her seventh goal of the season in the first quarter, but the Polar Bears responded with two goals of their own before halftime. McCluskey scored her second goal of the day off a corner opportunity early in the third quarter, and the game remained tied at 2–2. A save by Gibby in the first round of 7-on-7 overtime play extended the game, but a scrappy goal from Bowdoin senior forward Faith Jennings found the back of the net and claimed the victory.

Following two tough conference losses at the end of the regular season, field hockey approached NESCAC tournament play with a vengeance, earning a 1–0 victory over Bates to kick off their postseason run. McCluskey once again proved herself a dominant offensive weapon, scoring the only goal of the game off a penalty corner in the third quarter. The Bobcats applied pressure throughout the second half with two corner opportunities, but the Jumbos’ defense held fast, protecting their lead, and season, to advance in the tournament.

Head coach Tina Mattera reflected on the successes of the season and the team’s mindset as they enter postseason play. 

“I think that we’ve grown a ton as athletes,” she said. “We’ve made so many improvements from preseason to now just in terms of our basic fundamentals.” 

Mattera commented further on what elements of the game have been instrumental in achieving victory. 

“Our penalty corners have been amazing. In years past, we’ve struggled with those a little bit, and we’ve scored on those a lot,” she said. “The girls have put a lot of time into that, so it’s been great.”

The focus on penalty corners paid off once again in Tufts’ second game of the NESCAC tournament against Trinity on Nov. 5. McCluskey capitalized on a corner opportunity and scored her 10th goal of the season in the first quarter, giving the Jumbos a 1–0 lead that they would protect for the rest of the game to keep their season alive. They earned a spot in the conference championship game as a result of the victory. 

The previous regular-season matchup against Trinity displayed the team character and was a highlight of the season for Mattera. 

“[Prior to playing Trinity] we had had a weird, tough loss to Colby, and I was really proud of how well we responded,” she said. “We came out and we were on fire, and we played really well. It was a great game.”

Combined with veterans such as McCluskey leading the charge, the roster boasted significant young talent, and contributions from underclassmen along with players assuming new roles have impressed Mattera. 

“We graduated seven senior starters, so we’ve had some players that have really stepped into starting roles,” she said. “Freshman Gabby Sousa’s starting [and] doing a great job for us. Andrea DelGiudice as a junior has … really come into this year ready to play and she’s fired up and has done a nice job for us.” 

Other players like sophomore midfielder Mia D’Angelo moved to new positions seamlessly, allowing for more depth throughout the field. 

“Last year, [D’Angelo] had played more midfield, and we moved her to forward, and she’s been doing a nice job there,” Mattera said. “People in different positions and with not as much experience have really started to find their way.”

Though growth and development characterized much of the season, the No. 2 Middlebury Panthers bested the Jumbos again in the NESCAC title game, winning in a 2–0 shutout and gaining an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament. DelGuidice, Sousa and McCluskey all managed shots on goal, to no avail. 

If selected, the Jumbos will move on to their fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance in the coming week.

Mattera described the postseason mentality. 

“The games keep getting more and more competitive. Everybody’s obviously gotten better this season, every other team [has], too. And so now [the mentality is] like ‘how can we continue to improve our game?’” she said. “We need to compete and be ready to go.”